VHA Survey Shows Hospital Infection Control Efforts are Improving

IRVING, Texas -- Research conducted by VHA Inc., a national healthcare alliance, reveals that close to 60 percent of infection control practitioners time is spent on surveillance, communication and management of infection control programs, and preventing infection transmission. Another substantial portion of their time (13 percent) is focused on education and training.

VHA worked closely with hospitals in 13 states between 2004 and 2005 to learn what hospitals are doing to reduce healthcare-associated infection (HAI) rates and then provided assistance in improving infection control efforts. They looked at the duties of infection control staff, physician involvement, the products used to support infection prevention efforts and clinical practice changes that hospitals were making to improve patient care and prevent HAIs.

Study findings support what we expected, that hospitals are adopting evidence-based practices to prevent healthcare-associated infections and, over time, have allocated more resources and attention to infection control departments, said Marly Christenson, RN, MSN, senior director of clinical and performance improvement for VHAs Mountain States office, and lead author of the study. Hospitals are focusing on patient safety and making important changes to strengthen infection prevention efforts.

The study also reported that hospitals varied in their care processes and use of products designed to prevent infections. Hospitals converted to products recommended in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines during the study period, such as use of chlorhexidine products (12.5 percent) to keep skin germ free. Additionally, half of the hospitals surveyed increased surveillance frequency of specific infection control markers, engaged nursing personnel in infection control activities and reviewed and/or implemented evidence-based practice protocols.

Observation of basic handwashing practices revealed that nurses (86 percent) and respiratory therapists (84 percent) were more likely to follow CDC guidelines for hand hygiene after direct patient contact than physicians (60 percent). Hospital team coaching, individual consulting and targeted educational sessions through the course of the study helped to improve adherence to these basic care processes. For example, hand hygiene practices improved by more than 52 percent and practices to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia by more than 10 percent.

Infection control efforts are one of hospitals top priorities, said Ken Smithson, MD, vice president at VHA. All of VHAs clinical improvement programs are focused on helping hospitals reduce and/or eliminate infection. Our programs have helped hundreds of hospitals across the country successfully implement processes that are proven to reduce common hospital-acquired infections, including ventilator-associated pneumonia, bloodstream and central line infections, sepsis and surgical site infections. 

Source: VHA Inc.